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10 Most Beautiful Big Bear Hikes You Shouldn't Miss

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Big Bear is renowned for its natural beauty, which draws visitors from all over the world to this California gem located in the San Bernardino Mountains. Just a short drive from Los Angeles, miles of fantastic Big Bear hiking trails, many with breathtaking views of Big Bear Lake and the San Bernardino Mountains, can be found.

From woodland paths to broad vistas and rich meadow scenery to panoramic peak views, Big Bear boasts some of the best hiking year-round. You’ll definitely want to spend at least a weekend at one of Big Bear’s cabin rentals, although we’d suggest much longer if you can!

Pro Tip: Be sure to display an Adventure Pass in your car when parking and using the forest as recreation.

Organized from easy to moderate to most challenging, the following Big Bear trails are dog-friendly unless otherwise noted. Be sure to keep your best friend on a leash, though.

Read on for the 10 of the most beautiful hikes Big Bear has to offer. There’s also a bonus section about where to stay on your next Big Bear outdoor excursion.

Alpine Pedal Path One of Big Bear Hikes

Easy | 5.1 miles out & back

This paved path, which runs from Stanfield Cutoff to the Solar Observatory, meanders along Big Bear Lake's north side, with benches and viewpoint areas for those who want to stop and take in the scenery. The Alpine Pedal Path is an easy hike for all, offering great views of the south bank's ski resorts, beautiful alpine meadows, juniper and pine forests, and seasonal wildflowers.

The Serrano campground and Meadows Edge picnic facility are also on this route, making it a popular area for camping, fishing, and other recreational activities.

Jenks Lake Trail

Easy | 3.1 miles out & back

Originally built as a trout pond by Captain Lorin Shaw Jenks, Jenks Lake is still a popular fishing spot in the San Bernardino National Forest. The easy Jenks Lake Trail hike to and around the lake is a terrific opportunity to get a feel for the area and escape the summer heat.

If the visitor center is closed, pick up the Rio Monte Panorama Trail, which runs parallel to the roads for about 0.2 miles, from the Barton Flats Visitor Center or the Highway 38 turnaround. Then, take the Jenks Lake Trail south, which is well-marked. You continue up the slope on a few loose switchbacks after crossing Frog Creek (0.4 miles). You get a good view of the San Gorgonio Ridge and a look southwest through a breach in the trees.

After 1.2 miles on the trail, you'll reach the lake, where you can hike the loop around in either direction. As you travel clockwise around the lake, you'll pass a picnic area with outhouses before continuing on a dirt road to a private campground near the lake's east end. A short ascent up a steep slope leads to another road that rounds the lake's south coast, ending at a stone path. A viewing platform with interpretive plaques explaining the area's history. Return to the trail and retrace your steps back to the visitor center.

San Bernardino Town Trail

Easy | 2.8 miles out & back

The San Bernardino Town Trail (Towne Trail on some signage) bi-directional hike begins or ends at the Snow Summit Ski Resort and runs between the resort and Big Bear Village. Keep your eye out for the plethora of mountain bikers and trail runners on this easier trail that sees only a bit over 300 feet of elevation gain. The expansive views between towering pines make the San Bernardino Town Trail literally a breath of fresh air.

Cougar Crest Trail

Moderate | 5.6 miles out & back

Cougar Crest Trail's fields of wildflowers are one of the most attractive elements of this Big Bear hiking trail if you're lucky enough to be trekking it in the spring. View everything from towering pine trees to twisted Junipers, red-barked manzanita, and prickly cactus as you travel through a range of natural habitats. You may even encounter bobcats or lizards, and always be on the lookout for rattlesnakes!

The Cougar Crest Trail ends at the junction of the world-renowned 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). From there, you can continue up to Bertha Peak for spectacular views of Big Bear Lake.

The Cougar Crest Trail begins at the Big Bear Discovery Center, where parking costs $5.00, or you can park for free along the highway. There are also some excellent bunny slopes for sledding and tubing if you're hiking in Big Bear during the winter with children.

Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point

Moderate | 6.9 miles out & back

The Pine Knot Trail is a moderately challenging hike up to Grand View Point. It’s spectacular, with lush meadows full of penstemons and highly poisonous corn lilies. The forest framed in ponderosa pines, mixed conifers, oaks, and manzanita accompanies your climb before delivering sweeping views of 11,000-foot snow-capped peaks.

Experienced hikers can make the round trip in 3 hours or less. Families can bring a picnic and enjoy a fun half-day outing. While exploring, you'll likely run into others because this is a popular hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking destination.

The hike begins at Aspen Glen Picnic Area. As you ascend, keep an eye out for the apparent brown trail signs that say "PINE KNOT" in bold.

Castle Rock Trail

Moderate | 2.7 miles out & back

Providing some of the best views of the Lake, Castle Rock's Trail shouldn’t be missed. The trailhead begins near Big Bear Lake Village on State Highway 18, about a mile east of the dam. The most popular trail in Big Bear is fortunately not too strenuous, and the path winds through the towering forest giving way to beautiful rock outcroppings.

Although this trail is shorter (it takes about an hour and a half to complete), the hike is primarily uphill, with significant elevation gain and some loose rock. However, the vistas make the trek well worth it. There are plenty of cedar, fir, and pine trees to admire along the walk.

As you can imagine, the parking lot can get very crowded later in the day, so plan to arrive early to ensure you'll get a space.

Bertha Peak Trail

Moderate | 7.5 miles out & back

This moderately challenging hike from the Big Bear Discovery Center showcases everything you'll want to see and do on the north shore of Big Bear Lake. From expansive lake vistas, great cedars and pines, a meandering, rocky trail, and outstanding views from the top of Bertha Peak, you’ll see it all on Bertha Peak Trail. Do note the height climb begins at the one-mile mark.

It's not particularly steep, but it's a continuous climb as it winds its way north over the first three miles, passing between peaks and bumps. However, you will see some beautiful trees along the journey, as well as glimpses of the panoramic views that await you at the summit.

Because this trail is mainly on the mountain's sunny southern slope, it will be free of snow earlier in the season than other trails. It provides for a pleasant hike even while the south side of the lake is still skiable.

Champion Lodgepole via Castle Rock Trail

Moderate | 4.3-mile loop

The Champion Lodgepole hike allows you to see Castle Rock and the 110-foot Champion Lodgepole Pine, both of which are notable monuments in the San Bernardino National Forest. You may also visit lovely Bluff Lake and take in some mountain views as part of the deal.

Fabulous views of Bluff Lake Preserve and access to a picnic area are all highlights of Champion Lodgepole via Castle Rock Trail. As you reach Bluff Meadows, bright green ferns blanket the forest floor, and wildflowers abound in the wide-open spaces.

Finally, after a few switchbacks and a downhill trek back into the national forest, you'll find yourself at Champion Lodgepole. The giant pine is over 400 years old, with a trunk circumference of almost 20 feet.

Although this is a popular hiking and mountain biking trail, you can still find some peace during the quieter hours of the day. A half-mile stroll from forest road 2N11 leads to the lodgepole, an excellent alternative for hikers with children (and a high clearance vehicle for the dirt road.)

Hanna Flat Campground Trail

Difficult | 9.1 miles out & back

Recognized as a local's favorite, the Hanna Flat Campground Trail in the San Bernardino National Forest is a delightful hike that takes you through rugged, undulating terrain while providing stellar views of the surrounding countryside. Hikers will go from the town of Fawnskin to a secluded, high-mountain campground on this less-traveled woodland trail.

Hiking the trail will lead you uphill through the forest along the lower slopes of Grays Peak Trail, with views of Big Bear Lake, before continuing across the steep terrain to the Hanna Flat Campground. This is a terrific hiking path if you're spending a nice weekend camping in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

Difficult | 11.6 miles out & back

Sugarloaf Mountain, about 7 miles southeast of Big Bear Lake, is a notable 9,952 feet tall. While there are taller peaks in the neighboring San Gorgonio wilderness, Sugarloaf Mountain trail is worth the hike. Though the summit is circular and forested and does not offer the 360-degree vistas that some adventurers may expect, the views from the upper reaches of the hike are spectacular. Looking south, the highest point in Southern California, San Gorgonio stands tall at 11,499 feet.

Those with 4-wheel drive vehicles can save a few miles and park right at the trailhead, while others may want to avoid the rough dirt road and park at the crossroads of Highway 38 and Wildhorse Meadow Road.

Where to Stay in Big Bear, California

Big Bear has a wide range of hotel and camping options. So whether you're looking for a luxury cabin vacation rental or a remote wilderness campsite, like Serrano Campground or Pineknot, you'll find it in Big Bear Lake.

After a long day of hiking with your best friend, what better way to relax than in a dog-friendly A-frame. Check out these artfully decorated cabins- aptly named Firefly and Moonshine. These beautiful mountain modern cabins feel like a home away from home. Not to mention, they're within walking distance to popular ski resorts, the best coffee on the mountain, and miles of breathtaking trails.

At night, roast s'mores outside at the firepit or cozy up to the fireplace for some ghost storytelling fun. For the best cabin experience, you'll want to book your stay with Midnight Moon Cabins.


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